Fatigue, niggles worry Neeraj Chopra ahead of Asian Games

Three days after a gruelling journey to a Worlds gold, India’s javelin ace is happy to finish with a silver in the Zurich Diamond League

It has been a gruelling few months for Neeraj Chopra (photo: JSW Sports)
It has been a gruelling few months for Neeraj Chopra (photo: JSW Sports)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The biggest challenge for a top flight javelin thrower, feels India’s golden boy Neeraj Chopra, is to remain injury-free to be able to pursue his goals. Barely three days after the World Championships gold in Budapest, the ace fought off fatigue, niggles and a bout of cold to finish with a silver at the Zurich Diamond League meet on Thursday night. 

His best throw of 85.71 m was enough to earn him a second spot finish, while the Czech Republic’s Jakub Wadlech (third at the Worlds) won the gold with 85.86 m and Germany’s Julian Weber finished third (85.04 m). A certain Roger Federer and his wife Mirka were among the crowd watching the event. 

‘’There was certainly a fatigue factor as I had no time for recovery after Budapest. I had a bit of a cough and was not too well but I did not want it to sound like an excuse,’’ said a visibly tired Chopra during a video interaction with the media on Friday.  

After his first three throws in Zurich were below par, Chopra admitted that he feared he would be out of the running for a medal altogether. ‘’It was a 10-man field, so I pushed myself for the last three throws and I am happy with the result. I have now learned how to conserve my energy and save it for the bigger occasions,’’ he said.  

It had been a gruelling few months for Chopra as he started the Diamond League season with a gold in Doha (5 May), then skipped a few events before coming back to win at Lausanne on 30 June. A groin injury has been bothering him and there is now a shoulder niggle too, leaving him to fight the deadline before a crucial Diamond League event in Eugene on 16-17 September, and then the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. 

Carrying the dreams of a billion Indians on his broad shoulders, Chopra will fly to China as an overwhelming favourite for the javelin gold. However, the job will be far from easy as Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem, the silver medallist at the Worlds and reigning Commonwealth Games champion with a 90 m-plus throw, will stand in the way.  

‘’It’s been an extremely demanding schedule and to cope with it, you have to understand your body. I will now recover for the next one or two days and then start training for Eugene. There is hardly any time after that for the Asian Games,’’ said Chopra, the reigning Asian Games champion, having won gold with an effort of 88.06 m in 2018. 

His best of 88.17 m in Budapest did not leave him satisfied, but it was enough to seal a gold and propel Chopra into the elite club of javelin throwers who simultaneously hold Olympics and World Championships titles — Jan Zelezny of the Czech Republic and Andries Throkildsson of Norway. 

Zelezny, Chopra’s idol, ruled the sport like a colossus when he won back-to-back Olympics golds in 1992, 1996 and 2000 while winning the Worlds in 1993, 1995 and 2001. Throkildsson, on the other hand, won Olympics gold in 2008 and at the 2009 World Championships. 

Asked whether he would be trying to emulate his hero with the Paris Olympics coming up in a year, the Indian was guardedly optimistic. ‘’There will be no lack of effort from my side as the entire country wants me to do well every time I participate in an event. However, the biggest challenge in our sport is to remain injury-free and that’s what I am concerned with now,’’ he said.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines